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India aim for jugular

An injured Sachin Tendulkar will be missed as India go into the fourth cricket one-dayer against New Zealand in Hamilton on Wednesday, confident of being able to wrap up the series by taking an invincible 3-0 lead. Anand Vasu elaborates.
Hindustan Times | By Anand Vasu, Hamilton
UPDATED ON MAR 10, 2009 11:01 PM IST

In a career of overachievement there is still one thing that has eluded Sachin Tendulkar — the World Cup. Not winning it, despite playing in five editions is something that still rankles Tendulkar. In this context, it is surprising that he was adamant that there was no way he would consider playing in the Twenty20 World Cup. From Tendulkar’s point of view, the logic is simple — he does not want to disturb a winning team.

While each individual in the team respects Tendulkar more than any other cricketer, they have also learnt how to play without the little master, and do so successfully. So, if New Zealand think that Tendulkar’s absence automatically means that their job will get easier, they should think again.

The team has decided to rest Tendulkar, as a precautionary measure after the soreness and bruising in an abdominal muscle did not subside satisfactorily. But this only puts into sharp focus the roles of the others in the line-up, while opening up an opportunity for a hungry youngster.

Rohit Sharma, the only spare specialist batsman in the squad, is the obvious choice, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni sometimes veers from the predictable. If he does so, Dinesh Karthik could be the beneficiary, with the skipper himself playing just as a batsman.

Rain ended the Indian team’s optional afternoon practice at Seddon Park in Hamilton, with Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Dhoni and Pragyan Ojha opting to take rest.

The good news for the Indians was that Ishant Sharma was back to bowling in the nets and did not seem in obvious discomfort, although a final decision on his fitness would be taken on the morning of the game.

Every move will be made to ensure that the lanky Delhi fast bowler makes the cut as this will also ensure that he gets valuable match practice ahead of the Tests. If Munaf Patel had not been such a disappointment, the team
management may have considered giving Ishant more rest, but that’s not an option they would like to consider under the existing circumstances.

For New Zealand, Daniel Vettori’s return after missing the last game means a lot, for both his bowling and strategic leadership were sorely missed in the Christchurch drubbing.

There’s every indication that New Zealand, who have relied heavily on chasing, might just choose to bat first, should they win the toss.

In the recent past, India have been especially aggressive when in an opportunity to close out a series.

They would dearly love to seal their maiden ODI series triumph in New Zealand with an emphatic 3-0 result.

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